Dr. Hubert Minnis: From very bad to much worse to disastrous
Within the first two months of 2015, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has caused as much or perhaps even more damage to the FNM as he has over the previous two years-plus. His performance has not improved. He has gotten dramatically worse. We are witnessing a political wreck of titanic proportions as he continues to implode.
Even some who supported his recent election as party leader are exasperated, having second thoughts: “Too many mistakes too soon”.
From the Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) episode to abandoning a party conclave to an extremely damaging senatorial firing and appointment fiasco – all within a matter of mere weeks – Minnis has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is grossly and irredeemably incompetent as party leader.
The party is hemorrhaging support from core supporters. Many die-hard FNMs have decided that they will either not vote at the next general election or will vote DNA because they cannot bring themselves to vote PLP and they cannot support the FNM under Minnis. The party is in a crisis of grave proportions.
Minnis has drafted a fatal political calculus. Not only has he failed to rally the party’s base but he has also alienated much of that base. He continues to divide the party because he seems incapable of sincerely reaching out to opposing voices beyond platitudes of unity. A demoralized base and wider disaffection multiplied by disunity equals electoral disaster.
Since January, the party’s fortunes have been sinking weekly, fortunes which cannot be recovered under Minnis, whom arguably the bulk of the electorate has now written off as hopelessly and irretrievably out of his depth.
Having organized and begged for a second chance to prove himself and granted a reprieve, Minnis inexplicably imploded in breathtaking speed. His actions bespeak a noxious concoction of unwarranted arrogance and inexhaustible political stupidity.
He and some avid supporters typically blame the news media, critics and others for his problems. Their criticisms are misplaced. His unending and mega-blunders are all self-inflected wounds, the result of arguably the worst political and policy judgment of any opposition leader since the advent of party politics. His political judgment is hopelessly flawed.
It was not just the dull, vision-deprived, droning and dreadfully-delivered New Year’s address. On top of this was the failed BOB march and Prime Minister Perry Christie’s subsequent withering assault on the opposition in the House of Assembly as Minnis sat dumbstruck, clueless and speechless.
It is unthinkable that Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Sir Kendal Isaacs, Henry Bostwick, Hubert Ingraham and other opposition leaders would have sat so passively, dazed, out of their depth, unable to defend their party and themselves as they were getting licked with verbal two-by-fours – and over an issue where the governing party is acutely vulnerable. Absent his cue-cards and those who cue his actions, the leader of the opposition was clueless.
This was a singular test of Minnis’ leadership. He failed – spectacularly. It is his failure alone. He cannot play the victim. His colleagues and rank-and-file FNMs were left leaderless on the field of battle as PLPs made sport of the FNM.
Minnis has demonstrated that he never possessed, does not now possess, nor will he likely ever possess the critical skills necessary to be an effective opposition leader, much less prime minister.
Those still nurturing the fantasy that he can be groomed for either office are living in a dream world that is resulting in nightmarish prospects for the FNM. Six months more will make no difference.
How much more support does the FNM have to hemorrhage before it becomes so anaemic and weakened that it will have no time to recover its electoral prospects? The good doctor is clearly not good for the recovery and health of the FNM.
Question for those who reluctantly or self-servingly organized and authorized his reprieve: How did you blindly imagine that things would be different?
In January, Minnis invited the party’s top brass as well as representatives from every constituency, a total of approximately 200, to a conclave convened to unify the party and to chart a strategy going forward.
Then in one of the more inexplicable, supremely arrogant and politically stupid acts in modern Bahamian politics, he blew off the second day of the conclave to attend Junior Junkanoo in Eleuthera.
Wearing a pharaonic crown, he rushed his way into the political almanac, becoming, it appears, the only head of the FNM or PLP to abandon a conclave of his own party. Sir Lynden Pindling, Ingraham nor Christie would have pulled such a dismissive stunt. Then again he is not remotely in this league.
What made Minnis’ Eleuthera escapade even more bizarre is that the flight to the island is short and the event was held at night as seen in the photo inexplicably publicized by his team.
Party Chairman Michael Pintard unhelpfully advised that Minnis agreed the Junkanoo date earlier, suggesting that the latter is so gravely incompetent as to be unable to do basic scheduling.
Minnis likely abandoned the conclave for the very reason that he could not respond to Christie when challenged on the BOB march: he was hopelessly out of his depth and had no idea what to say.
Instead of embarrassing himself by speaking unscripted he went mute in the House and fled the conclave. He is petrified of speaking unscripted. When he does, it is usually an unmitigated disaster. He seems to like instead to use subterfuge and politically subterranean tactics to advance his ends.
Despite the abysmal record of the PLP, the FNM is now in worse shape precisely because of Minnis’ re-election. Having witnessed his previous disastrous two plus years, and horrified at his mega-blunders so far this year, voters and FNMs at large have surmised that the party cannot be taken seriously.
The albatross strangling the political fortunes of the FNM was and remains Minnis, replete with his jumble of grave insecurities, autocratic and non-collegial leadership style, vindictive actions and incomprehensible incompetence which often makes even a bumbling Perry Christie seem like a model of political leadership.
All of which may be seen in his senatorial firing and appointment fiasco, a case study in Minnis’ flawed leadership. Every step along the way was a blunder. To begin with, senators should not have been appointed with a de facto time limit. This makes a mockery of the Senate which is the Upper House of Parliament signified by the fact that its members carry the title of honorable.
After the recent convention, the brooding Minnis seemed to have drawn up an enemies list of those not personally loyal to him. In what appears a highly vindictive move, Heather Hunt, a well-regarded political talent, was unceremoniously dismissed because she reportedly backed Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner. Her firing was bungled. Will Minnis now seek to push aside, punish and deny nominations to those MPs and aspiring candidates who did not support his election?
His excuse for the dismissal of Hunt unwittingly put at risk the Senate tenure of a purported supporter in the person of Senator Kwasi Thompson, a fine person and a competent parliamentarian, who people now expect to be replaced based on Minnis’ proffered rationale for dismissing Hunt.
Minnis is incapable of dealing with internal opposition and unifying the FNM because of such paralyzing insecurities. He is making the same mistakes as before. He knows no other way. This pattern is so entrenched that he seems incapable of genuinely changing it, incapable of bringing the FNM “all together”.
Minnis allowed the appointment of a new senator to spin out of control and to become a public spectacle. Instead of effectively mounting an opposition to the government’s mass of mistakes, the FNM has remained on the defensive.
He appears to have courted the hotel union president as the new senator. This was another mind-boggling mistake, with obvious potential conflicts of interest.
There are reports that he offered the appointment to former candidate Monique Gomez and then reneged on the offer. In the event, his appointment has alienated scores in the party including senior figures, some of his supporters and many in the Women’s Association.
The appointment to the Senate of a novice with a meteoric rise, thanks to Minnis, and with little stature and bona fides in the party, has distressed many. It may prove Minnis’ worst blunder yet. Her initial comments, even before her swearing-in, have been inauspicious and problematic, including her dismissal of members of the Women’s Association as “emotional”.
Those who thought that Minnis’ paralyzing weaknesses were malleable and could be mitigated will be proved wrong time and again. He will often continue to coo the right things to certain individuals and then do the wrong thing. It is now up to key members of the party and the rank and file to change direction before it is too late.
Collectively, Minnis’ string of disasters constitutes an overwhelming case for change as soon as possible.